Sunday, March 29, 2009

Not a domestic goddess, just a girl with a plan and a garden

Mia Freedman is a columnist I often end up reading because she sometimes comments on issues that interest me, but for some reason I find her incredibly grating. Yesterday's column in the Age was all about young women whose 'ultimate goal is to take up life long positions in the home raising children'. 'Who knew there were so many 23-year-olds out there baking, crocheting, gardening, marrying, procreating, making their own pasta and having Tupperware parties?' Freedman asks. I'm not quite sure how we leapt from women in their twenties knowing they wanted children at some point to this summary, but as a 22-year-old who happily bakes and gardens, who knows she wants children at some later date and who seriously considers being a stay at home parent I resent her derision.

I hate that somehow acknowledging that I want a career and then children is seen as lessening my commitment to my career until that point (and after that point), and the fact that I enjoy some elements of domesticity is seen as tantamount to disempowering myself. The sneer of Freedman's 'These women consider themselves empowered underneath their pink gingham aprons' is so palpable, even if she is attempting to give the article some sense of balance at that point.

I think it's a good thing that I know I want a career and then quite probably children as it drives me to make the most of the decade I consider to be for me alone. I understand that if I choose to have children my needs will often no longer come first, and I want to give everything my best shot before that point so that I don't have regrets or resentment about my career being cut short. I'm not going to box myself into saying that I will definitely have children or that if I do I will give up full-time work, I just see it as an insurance plan in case I do want to. I know I'm not alone in this; I have other incredibly driven friends who know what they want from life and see planning ahead as the best way to take advantage of all the facets of life they want to experience. Don't worry, I understand that things don't necessarily go to plan, but I get so sick of people judging women who acknowledge the realities of what they want from life.

And don't even get me started on her claim that Kate Middleton may epitomise this trend. Somehow an upper class woman without a job and with none of the domestic trappings Freedman's so critical of is meant to reflect women who want a career and children but also enjoy gardening? (I also think that if there's a trend for domesticity, it's not necessarily confined to women - plenty of my male friends are also right into all those terrible disempowering activities like making pasta, baking and gardening.)

I actually wrote this post yesterday but decided to wait a day and see if I still felt incensed about the issue. Yep, I do. But interestingly, by waiting I was able to see more comments on Mia's blog about the issue. One of the comments I most liked came from someone called Alice. 'I wonder if she has a blog?' I thought, so clicked on the link - turns out I already follow it!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Plum Concrete

I remember loving Margaret Mahy's Jam: A True Story, a picture book all about a family who make masses of plum jam - so much that they use it for everything, including reattaching tiles in the bathroom.

If they had wanted a recipe specifically for concreting with plums, I probably could have helped. Last night I attempted to make jam but managed to over-reduce the mixture to a point where it's more like solid plum/sugar mix. Not quite sure what to do about that just yet. I even took pictures in anticipation of a blog post, and in my head had already held a tea party where people complimented the jam and I was able to tell them I'd made it myself. Pride certainly comes before a fall.

Friday, March 20, 2009

A Bright Spot in My Week

My garden seems to be so colourful at the moment. These are just some of the bright spots. In fact, there are so many bright spots that I may have to break the party up. Let's start with warm reds and oranges.

Ornamental Pomegranate:


Another geranium (we have a lot of them because they're so easy to cultivate from cuttings, so they're both cheap and cheery, both of which are important for our garden):

Zucchini flower - I love the way these curl as they leave the stage, a bit like a bow or curtsy:

P.S. Jealous of the fabulous backdrop to my garden? If you're lucky you too may one day have the pleasure of a grey metal fence and almost fence to fence concrete. I'll keep my fingers crossed for you.

Jen, This Shelf is Your Life

As I procrastinated away this morning I found myself thinking that I probably needed a little more greenery in my study, so I brought in a pot from the backyard for an indoors holiday. After I'd settled it in place I realised that the tableau I had created pretty much summed up a lot of my life.

Greenery, writing tools and mementos of travel and family.

Any Australian writer will recognise the dictionary and style manual.

The poster I bought when I was about 14 and Mum and I went to France together. It was meant to be a family holiday but my brother ended up having to stay in Australia and Dad had to stay with him, so it was just the two of us. It was a pretty incredible holiday, although I can't believe Mum bothered to take a moody teenager with her. We were both learning French at the time, and she had to put up with me thinking it was mortifying that she was trying to practice her French on the locals: 'I can't believe you Mum, you are SO embarrassing, you keep speaking FRENCH' (said as though speaking French were comparable to picking one's nose or something). Not only did she put up with such brattiness, she also did all the driving (and on the wrong side of the road) which is why this poster in particular brings back memories. She drove the nine hour roundtrip to the lavender fields in Provence twice, because the first day hadn't been particularly sunny, so the lavender looked pretty grey. The second time was incredible though, and we have the most beautiful photos of bright purple fields.

The gourd I bought in Peru from a woman probably my own age. She told me she carves them during the low tourist season, and then brings them into town when us gringos are around. She cut the lid off it for me when I bought it and finished hollowing it out, and all the while her young daughter who was tied to her back, baby-chattering away. Definitely a different way of being a working mother.

And then the turtle belonged to my grandmother. It's something I really strongly remember from her house, so i always like to keep it somewhere where it can watch over me as I sleep or study.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Going Loco, Finding Choko

I'm not going too loco, but it has been a little crazy with work deadlines and the return to uni. I've been swept up with excitement about the research project I'm doing, which is about how men's and women's magazines differ in their coverage of environmental issues. I'm pleased as punch that I thought of the topic, as it covers quite a few areas that interest me. Now if only I didn't actually have to get through a knee-high pile of books about media theory and gender studies.

But in other exciting developments, I found I was accidentally growing another type of vegie!

I think I did know somewhere in the back of my mind that I thought this was edible, and that's why I didn't pull it out when it started to get going. But I'm now fairly sure it's Choko (if anyone knows otherwise, stop me before I poison myself). Choko apparently fell out of favour with Australians during the Great Depression because it was what poor people ate (plus most people aren't too fond of its blandness), so it seems quite suiting that it turned up as we go into recession. It also has quite pretty flowers that are attracting plenty of bees.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Grey Day Consolation*

Maybe consolation is the wrong word. In fact it felt like I was luxuriating in the cool weather as I sat with my latte and pain au chocolat, listening to the patter of downpipes dripping on pavement and the hiss of cars speeding past on the wet road. Now I'm watching rain slide down my study window, blurring and distorting the world outside, and trying to remember the last time it rained like this.

And maybe consolation is the right word, because part of the joy of weather like this is being consoled by comforts like a hot drink steaming in the damp, cold air or being wrapped in a woollen jumper with a good book as the rain on the roof lulls you into a languorous cocoon.

*Given how often I find myself tempted by this little French bakery on a nearby corner, this post could also be correctly titled 'There's No Milk Left And I Can't Be Arsed Shopping', 'I Can't Stand The Thought of Another Sandwich', 'It's Sunny! Let's Sit Outside', 'Surely Spinach Slice Counts As My Daily Iron Intake' or 'My Jeans Feel Loose, Must Be Time to Reward Myself'.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Confused Plants

Last month in Melbourne all the leaves fell from the trees in extreme heat, but now it appears they weren't the only confused plants in this neck of the woods. I'm pretty sure Clivias only flower once a year, usually in spring. I guess one of my Clivias just thought such a dramatic rise in temperature could only be explained by springtime.

Who knows, but I'll happily enjoy its beautiful mistake.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Weird pots

One thing you may notice from the photo of zucchinis in the last post is that they're not growing in a garden bed. We live in a rental property with an almost entirely concrete backyard, so a lot of the garden is in pots. I like finding ways to create pots from other things, or scavenging pots for free (the nursery at CERES often throws up some fantastic free pots). That zucchini plant grows in a styrofoam box that I painted terracotta colour. It was interesting to note how much better the plants in styrofoam boxes fared in the extreme heat of the last few months, the insulation must have helped keep the roots from frying! Coconut shells also make funny little pots.

They already have a weak point where it's easy to make drainage holes, they're something you would otherwise throw away, and they look quite cute perched around the garden with succulents in them. I think the next step to try would be making hanging coconut pots!